To write to insist on proper reporting on Israel, there are many principles or ideas we better keep in mind.
These guidelines are not because this way we can guarantee success. Rather, when we violate these “rules” we diminish the chances to influence Israel reporting positively. (Compare – If physicians would wait with treating patients until they could be sure to improve their health, they would do nothing most of the time, which certainly were going to cost health and lives.)
First a practical course in understanding the issues at hand.
- PRACTICAL COURSE.
You can use our Blog to get training & understanding (& lots of information & awareness) to write against anti-Israel bias. We suggest you do as follows:
1. Copy an AP headline that you find on this Blog.
2. Google that headline between “quotation marks.”
3. Read the AP report. See if you find any bias. Make notes if you like.
4. Now compare with what we wrote.
5. Did we miss something? Did you? How would you have presented a feedback to AP?
6. You may wish (in the beginning?) to change that order: first read our Blog’s review (4.) and then go look for & read the AP report (1.-3.) & then think about how you see it (5.).
Now a list with 17 principles to keep in mind in bias busting.
- STAY POSITIVE.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t be forceful or even angry. But the main context of our writing needs to be constructive. So we write because we expect better or improvement from them. Or to let them know that we got hurt and we expect them to not do so again. Or to point out a mistake that should not be repeated. Never should we write just to vent our anger or to threaten or insult (back).
It might help to keep in mind that the reader of our response might (most possibly) be human (too), and that if we would have been in their place we could easily have made the same mistakes; or if we were raised or educated like them, we would have the same blind sports, prejudices or limited range of friends. Even the meanest thing written doesn’t prove malicious intent.
As long as you can believe that the journalist could be well-meaning & naive, consider him/her mislead (instead of purposely misleading) & try to help him/her see more of the truth. Be their ally, not their foe. They might turn out your ally, in the end.
When we are convinced that the one we address will not be sensitive to our words or even be outright evil, we can still have a good reason to write back if others would read over his/her shoulder, to reach them. To let others know that this hate-speech is untruthful, and to show what defense we could bring up to neutralize such bigoted words.
Try to write with the feeling that we’re going to have a positive impact – and that if we’re not, that we’re going to find out how to help effectuate change for the better. This work can be done better and more pleasantly when we can trust and are able to feel positive about our abilities and are not completely desperate or hopeless.
Are you sure that what they write is untrue? It could be that you got insulted by lack of the right context but that the facts in themselves are as reported. Are you not pleased by what seem the facts – check them (see the next Chapter 7. Basics). Maybe we’re upset by lack of some contradiction against prejudice against Jews – try to isolate the stereotype and formulate the truth against this.
Learn what terms in Middle East reporting are biased. http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=405&x_article=405 .
An example of how a choice of words determines the impression given. Take Hezbollah. It is officially “recognized” by the US, the EU and others as a terrorist organization. But it goes beyond terrorist attacks. Besides acts of terror it has amassed a weapon arsenal good for fighting wars from build up areas (the population as human shields) as a true alternative army. It is also an occupying force in South Lebanon that receives its main support from Syria and Iran. It also does humanitarian relief work, clearly from a wish to gain favor with the local population and to use as a fig leaf for its violent agenda. And it’s a major political party, represented in the Lebanese Parliament & Government. It could be called any of the above or a euphemism like the military wing of the Party of God – the last three words a translation of its name. It could be termed a group of resistance fighters, hiding what exactly it resists, its murderous & totalitarian ideals (http://www.standwithus.com/pdfs/flyers/hezbollah_program.pdf) and its might makes right philosophy. It could be described as guerilla fighters, hiding that these are foreign occupiers in the area and not representatives of the local population trying to obstruct a foreign occupier. It could be named a militia or paramilitary group, pretending that it is merely a group of armed civilians with its own anti-government agenda. It has been characterized as militants, which is a soothing term, as is extremists. The only true word seems terrorists – the rest a manipulation of public opinion.
Check your spelling.
- CONNECT TO OTHERS
There are others that try to do the same. Connect to them, learn from them, show them what you did. But don’t speak for others as if your opinion on its own would not count. Neither isolate yourself.
We will meet people with completely different convictions about life that motive them to fight for honest reporting about Israel. Some because they are Jewish, some because they are not Jewish (but believe in solidarity), some because they are right-wingers, some because they are left-wingers, some because they are religious, some because they are not religious, etc. It’s best for left-wingers to go after left-wing media bias, etc., but not a must.
Either focus on a (few) specific point(s) or write a comprehensive analysis about every sour point, but in any case don’t connect it to all ills in the world.
The shorter and the more to the point your reaction, the greater the chance that it will be read & (where applicable) be published.
We are a good editor of our own words when we may extract the essence in a few words, instead of being verbose & wordy.
- CONNECT JEWISH LIBERATION TO OTHER LIBERATIONS
Where we can, we should connect the Liberation of Jews to other liberations. Let’s look at an example.
Fathers and (especially) mothers are easily blamed for any imperfection in their children. Sometimes these actually are the result of their inadequacy, but then some mention should be made of the daily burden they were under from working for a living, and how little help there was to help ease their parental burdens.
Jews are often forced to cooperate with the oppressive society they live in because the authorities let their safety depend on their cooperation. This way they are hijacked by the powers that be because the hostility of the general population gives them no other safety net.
Then Jews are blamed for all ills that society has, as if it all was their idea in the first place. Overlooked is that the isolation of Jews from the general population left them no choice than to cooperate with the rulers.
A solution is that all of the population starts to embrace the Jews and so rescues them from their captivity, so that they can’t be blackmailed anymore into supporting society as it is, even when it doesn’t deserve such support. Blaming Jews for supporting the establishment, hands them over to them because they then have no one else to rely on.
(On an international scale the same happens as here depicted on a national level.)
- DON’T USE THE A-WORD
Even when we’re sure that we spotted a clear case of anti-Semitism, don’t use the term. If we must, use: “stereotypes against Jews,” “Jew-hatred,” etc. The word anti-Semite paralyzes people who could become our friends or at least could stop looking like our enemies. We don’t need people to feel bad and guilty (focus on the past) at all; rather, people should feel good about themselves and take responsibility (future orientated).
To overuse the A-word also cheapens it.
Insist on proper news reporting not as a favor to you, Jews or Israel, but rather as their responsibility to be truthful and their unique chance to contribute to the development of a better world.
Now, it would be too crazy if someone would respond to an accusation of Sexism with an indignant “I’m not Jack the ripper.” However, that is, unfortunately, the situation when we point out someone’s bias against Jews. They say “I deplore what Hitler did and I have Jewish friends.” Most of the times such a reaction even seems sincere. (As if a happy mixed gender marriage proves that the guy is not a sexist.) When uttered by real full-time Jew-haters, they use their Jew-hating Jewish friends just as a fig leaf.
- DON’T EXAGGERATE
When we feel that we can’t reach the other we tend to exaggerate. So try to become good at getting your point across so that we don’t need to go ballistic and be dismissed for our fierceness. Behind bottomless anger often powerlessness hides. So take power (and write an elegant rebuttal) and we’ll have no need to feel powerless anymore.
- DON’T BE A FATALIST
Don’t rush from a simple wrong word to predicting that failure to correct it will spell the end of Mankind.
- DON’T GET INTIMIDATED
It’s good to be humble, but not too much. No one in the world is more (or less) important than you. If you want to correct an injustice, no embarrassment of fear should stop you.
- DON’T PREACH TO THE CHOIR
Don’t use arguments that the other doesn’t believe in. Don’t just bring what convinced YOU. Make a case that will persuade THEM. Don’t say “But in the Holy Bible G-d Himself promised the Land to His People” to people who obviously don’t believe in this. Rather say: “As every People deserves a homeland and is getting one ever since WW II, why should Jews be an exception?”
- DON’T REPEAT NONSENSE WITHOUT COUNTER-INFORMATION
Give the right information instead of just repeating the faulty. This is especially of value if you want your words to be published. Only if you can be sure that your adequate antidote against the poison will be included you may quote the misinformation.
- DON’T WRITE COUNTER-PROPAGANDA
We don’t want to seem to have the most arguments on our side; rather, we want to be truthful. Therefore, admit nuances, admit that Israel is not perfect, if you want to come across as honest and reasonable, and your position to be accepted or at least considered. Ignore arguments from people who seem on Israel’s side but that are less than truthful.
Don’t leave out arguments that you dislike (“cherry picking”). Rather, honestly report them and learn to answer them or admit that you can’t yet. If a “new” argument sounds completely made up, say so and explain why you’re suspicious of it, and that it’s not reasonable to have to answer on the spot “new” allegations. (We write “new” because if it is made up, these fables will often have roots in old anti-Jewish stories.)
- DON’T AGREE TO DOUBLE STANDARDS
No society in the world is yet perfect; to demand perfection from Israeli society as if only in Israel things are crooked, is something to protest against. (Also, when perfection is brought up as a condition for Israel’s survival or safety, we have grounds to protest.)
When workers are underpaid and under-protected, when the rich have an ongoing field day, when corruption exists, these are not valid complaints against Israel per se, as these ills are universal. What’s more, often the situation is Israel is just a bit better even, with more self-critical people around than anywhere else.
Demand for Jews what is natural for all people. Why should we tolerate that Jews should fear for their lives for being Jews? Why should Israel as the only country in the world not be allowed to give preferential treatment to its nationals?
- DON’T BUY INTO SELF-HATE
Like in every oppressed group, also Jews tend to fight each other & tell each other what the oppression says about them. When a Jew says something negative about Israel or Israelis, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically true. At least, criticism is often exaggerated.
- DON’T LOVE JEWS AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS
Israeli and other Jews are played against other people – don’t fall for this fallacy. There are no long-term contradictory interests between people or Peoples. Also, the Holy Land is BIG enough for all people who want to live there (when we respect each other). Don’t love the Jews because you think that’s the best way to hate Muslims. Let concern for all people go together with caring about Israel.
Don’t be afraid to show that you are a friend of the Jews.
- DON’T BE A SOUR-FACE
Give well-meant, generous compliments where they are due. If there is some or much to appreciate in the piece you comment on, start with that.
If you get to an exchange of views, don’t fail to voice agreement with whatever your opponent says that you are in agreement with. If needed we at least can agree to disagree, or agree that we both want the best reporting of the news.
Be enough of a good sport to admit when you’ve lost an argument. (That you wanted them to do when you thought that you had the best cards.)
- DON’T WAIT WITH REACTING UNTIL YOU CAN DO IT PERFECTLY
No one is perfect. Neither we should be. Write without too much pretense. Do the best you can. When you think it’s finished, re-read & re-read your piece with a critical eye as long as you find ways to make it better. When ideas about improvements start coming in slow, send it away.
There is not enough time and too much at stake to wait till we are perfect enough; we need to learn on the job and grant ourselves permission and patience to get better over time.